Five Extras You Should Consider Skipping

For most of us, vacations are a luxury. You save, plan and make priorities. Unfortunately, when it comes to Disney, it’s sometimes hard to say no to all the little extras. If your budget allows, by all means add a fancy meal or upgrade your ticket, but if you’re on a budget, here are some suggestions for things you can skip—and never miss:

1. You can’t do it all in one trip—or even ten trips. Your basic ticket is expensive and the price can initially be intimidating, but the entertainment value you get for that ticket will fill your time from sunrise to sunset. Don’t fall into the parental guilt trap and add extras like Bibbity Bobbity Boutique or fancy tea parties unless your budget allows. Your kids will be too busy to notice, I promise.

2. Park hopping takes time and energy. Unless you’re traveling with a group that’s super mobile and knows the parks, skip the hopper. If you find you need it once you’re in Walt Disney World, you can always upgrade your tickets at any point as long as you have one day left remaining on that ticket.

3. Character meals are great, but don’t overdue them. The more you do, the less interesting it can be for kids, for whom the novelty wears off quickly. Worse, many kids find it difficult to eat with all the excitement going on around them, so you’re wasting money. On a week-long trip I’d do two character meals at the most, maybe three if your kids are autograph hunters.

4. Special parties like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are great options that allow you to spend extra time in the park at night and see characters you might not normally see, but they’re also expensive, at around $65 a person, and can really put a dent in a family’s budget. Conversely, a park hopper can give you a lot of flexibility (and extra park time) for the same amount of money, provided of course that it fits into your group’s dynamic.

5. Deluxe dining doesn’t work for most people. As a travel agent, I would love to sell it to you. As a consumer, I know that you can probably do better supplementing the base dining plan with some out of pocket meals. As always, do the math first.

Okay, now I know I said this list has five you can skip, but I’d like to offer one more if you don’t mind:

6. Consider booking a value instead of a moderate resort. Unless you love the theming or you need a queen-sized bed because you‘re very tall, you don’t get much more space or amenities at a moderate than you would at a value resort. My motto is usually go big (deluxe) or go value, but the resorts in-between don’t impress me all that much.

What about you? Are any of these extras must-dos or do you tend to skip them as well? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

27 thoughts on “Five Extras You Should Consider Skipping”

  1. Good tips. Though I would comment on two of them.
    4. The parties are worth it, but only if you are going for the party (fireworks, shows, characters, extras). Going to them because things will be slower in the park has never worked for us.. A really late night extra magic hour session is always a lot better.
    6. I think that you misunderstand the value of the moderate resorts. The value resorts are noisy, with lots more kids (and seemingly always a pool within earshot!), but not so much more expensive like the deluxe resorts. We are park nuts, and spend all but 10 hours a day in a park if we can. The value resort were just not very restful, so until we joined the DVC, the cost difference between Port Orleans/French Quarter and even the least costly Animal Kingdom was too great with or without kids. In fact, if the DVC had moderate and value resorts, we would probably go to moderates almost exclusively, as it is a great balance of nice/value.

  2. I’m going to disagree with #6. There are more benefits to a moderate resort. In our experience, each time we went to a value resort, the pools were packed, the food court was also packed. We always had to send someone circling to find a table. Buses…standing room only, if you didn’t have to wait for the 2nd or 3rd bus to come along.
    Moderate resorts…much smaller crowds. Maybe once had to look for a table, they have a regular restaurant on site, and probably other amenities. Buses, got to sit most of the time.
    In my unscientific observation, it always seems that people with large families stayed at the values, and families with 1-2 kids seemed to be the norm at the moderates. Large foreign families were at the Contemporary, but that’s another post.

  3. Maybe I’m just crazier than most, but I’d never skip the park hopper. There have been multiple trips where I’ve watched Illuminations from near an exit and then hopped the monorail to MK to catch Wishes or caught a boat to DHS for Fantasmic! Being able to take advantage of morning EMH and then moving to a different park when it gets too full, or even starting at DHS and taking a nice boat ride over to Epcot for lunch makes it well worth it for me.

  4. I agree with skipping the hopper. I’ve been to the FL parks 20-30 times, but only twice with the hopper – once we started at Epcot and then made it to MK, the other we started at Epcot, then AK, then MK. Moving between the parks just takes too much time, IMO, and cuts your focus on what you want to see/do.

  5. Just a quick note, “but don’t overdue them.” Spell check won’t catch that one.

    That said, unless it is a special trip, I don’t stay on property at all. I can get a nice, clean, hotel room for $20-$30 a night off property.

  6. I’m with Jay. Our family of 6 (with small children) has always made a lot of use out of the park hopper and we wouldn’t exactly be considered easily mobile. ;) The nice feature is that if the kids just aren’t loving that particular park on that particular day, there’s nothing stopping you from switching it up, just like that. My husband is the trip planner (I just organize everything for that day when I’ve got my “marching orders”) and after the first 4 days – which are typically all one park – we go to a minimum of 2 parks a day, sometimes 3. I truly think it’s personal preference, but if this is your once-in-a-lifetime trip, this isn’t where I would scrimp.

  7. I’d have to agree with going either value or deluxe. If I’m going to pay for a moderate resort, I’d just might as well go to my favorite deluxe resort for closer to the same amount of money. If saving money was my biggest issue then I’d go with a value resort.

    1. I wish I were getting the discounts you are! I price out deluxe resorts every trip, hoping against hope to fit them into my budget, but I’ve never seen one that’s “closer (sic) to the same amount of money” as a moderate. I am not trying to be snarky; I just wish I knew your secret. ;)

    2. Closer to the same amount for Deluxe over Moderate? Where are you getting such fantastic discounts? We absolutely love Port Orleans Riverside and it has so many more amenities than the value resorts (including a fun lounge for adults to wind down). I consistently find (in of peak) for the daily rate to be only about $50 more than the Value resorts but AT LEAST $100 less than the Deluxe resorts. My thoughts are that we like to pay enough for the theming (have any of you been to Port Orleans Riverside – beautiful) but not waste too much on a room we may never see much of and we can visit by Monorail! Of course if money were not an object I would have a Deluxe room now and then.

  8. We ALWAYS go value resort because of how little time we spend in the room and will do so until we are ready to join DVC.

    But, we also ALWAYS do park hopper, tending to start the day wherever is having extra magic hours in the morning and ending where has them in the evening. We often use the break between parks to save money and eat off property {unless we are going from MK to Epcot because we take the monorail and I love lots of the Epcot food}.

    I do agree on character dining. We usually do one per trip and choose one with characters that are not often seen in the park {my daughter is into meeting characters and autographs}. We were there on her birthday last year and did Cinderella’s Table as a special birthday treat.

  9. Ok… for the most part I agree with you, however, when it comes to park hopping verses the parties, I would say save a day on a base ticket and skip a park day in lieu of going to the party and skip the hopper altogether rather than spending the money. If you are like my family who has been so often and NEED to split a day between two parks, add the hopper on your very last day.

    If you want a little something and can not afford the BBB or PL… try a cool dude for $8 at the barber shop… for girls a cool ponytail with pixie dust and for boys a little spiked action with pixie dust. Hopefully they will bring back the colored gel soon too!

    Also, as for the resorts,
    I think the moderate may be worth the splurge because they are less chaotic and a tad bit roomier than the values. I will also add that they are just a bit cleaner too. We are now DVC so we only do those resorts now. My husband refuses to stay at a value after our last experience. The room smelled and was filthy, not to mention extremely small.

    I am known for doing WDW on the cheap… I would have to do it that way in order to afford going 18 times in the past nine years!! There are so many ways to enjoy the magic without breaking the bank and getting overwhelmed with the thought that you have to do it ALL in one shot! The best part of WDW is being able to go back and do something new every visit!

  10. I agree with Jay. I loved being able to go to ak in the morning and end up at mk at night. I also will not do a character dinner unless its the hoopdiedooreview. You can spend the same amount of time with the characters for free. Just a personal preference for me.

  11. I disagree with majority of them especially the hopper pass. We are usually a very large group and love going to different parks in one day even if it’s to just eat dinner. We did the Merry Xmas Party and was fun to see and we got all the rides in minutes…I would def see it but wouldnt do it more then once. I would recommend trying different times of the year when going and trying a bunch of different things. The only think I do agree with is there is no way to get it all done but that gives us all a great excuse to keep going back! The bippy boppy boutique is so adorable and my niece loved it!!!!!!!! They do notice the other girls in the costumes and definitely want them! They are only young once!!!!!! We also did the deluxe dining and althou its a lot of food and we had some extra meals-the places and prices we were eating at definitely exceeded what was paid for the dining plan!

  12. I have to disagree with you on the dining plan – table service meals are definitely worth it, especially if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions. The ability to slow down and take your time deciding what to order without 50 people in line behind you is worth the extra cost.

  13. I think I would also have to disagree with you on a few:

    the dining plan: I think the Deluxe plan is nothing short of fabulous. Yes, you can schedule one too many character meals but what about Signature Dining. You can easily fit a few Signature Dining’s into a week trip and still enjoy the plan and get the most out of it. We’ve done Deluxe a few trips now and have wonderful meals – quick service, table service and signature dining combined.

    park hoppers: as a foodie family, this has been crucial to our trips, just like the Deluxe plan. Sorry, but Magic Kingdom just isn’t cutting it on dining. Yes, there are good places but get the hopper and take the time (aka have time to RELAX) while hopping on the monorail w/ the transfer over to Epcot.

    the parties: we had the opportunity to go in October of 2012 and experience MNSSHP. It was phenomenal. Happy Hallowishes = amazing. Would I recommend one of the parties for a first timer? Unlikely but if they were traveling during those selected dates, I would mention it but not push it just to give them the option. The more they know…

  14. If you are interested in the special parties, I would suggest NOT using your park entry on that day. (If you buy a 3 day pass, plan on the party for your fourth day)Instead, sleep in, play at the pool have a good meal and then mosey on into the park around 4pm. Well rested you will have a fabulous 6 plus hours at the park and then save your park entry days for early mornings that last late into the night! Why pay twice!

  15. Uh oh, I’m starting to think that I have over planned our trip… My hubby and I are bringing our 6 and 4 yr old girls, and 2 yr old boy for the 2nd time. We went last year and did 4 character meals during our 4 night/ 5 day stay. We all loved it, but I will say that we did Akershush 1st and THEN Cinderella’s royal Table a few days later, and they were 10 times more excited to see the princesses the first time. So this time each character dining has different characters present.. This year we are staying 6 nights/7 days and have 4 character meals, Wonderland tea party, and Pirates firework voyage. Base ticket only. Is this going to be too much?

    1. Oh my ! I have the Akershush 1st and Cinderella’s a few days later on my itinerary in August. Those are the only character meals we have booked.

      1. It’s not that my girls didn’t like it, it’s just at Akershush, they talked to every princess and my girls had so much to tell them and ask them. Then two days later at Cinderella’s they just gave hugs, took a picture, and then went back to eating… Maybe instead of Akershush you could do The Garden Grill in Epcot. We are doing that one this time, and my girls can’t stop talking about how they will get to eat with Chip n Dale! Not to mention Mickey and Pluto will be there, too…

    2. I went with my friend and her kids last Feb. we wound up withCRT for dinner one night, then lunch at Akershus the next day. We went with a 8yo boy and 4yo girl and they both loved them just as much the second time around. I was worried- we wound up with the exact same 5 princesses at each restaurant, but the kids were just thrilled both times.

  16. I disagree with you on value v. moderate. I like the theming of the moderate resorts. The value resorts are just TOO much and I need a more adult feeling resort. They’re also quieter. The pool slide is fun. And if you choose Coronado Springs, you get a fitness Center too. To me, not having Queen beds is a deal breaker. If you’re used to Queens (or King!) at home, a Full sized isn’t enough space for 2 people.

  17. 1. We don’t do many of those things, so I’m with you there.

    2. We have annual passes, so Park Hopping is included. But we’ve been many times and know the parks well, so we do sometimes Park Hop, but not often.

    3. Character dining is also very expensive. And you usually find the food there a bit lacklustre. So I agree with you.

    4. We always try and visit at off-peak times anyway, so we wouldn’t go to any of them.

    5. We do it about 3 nights a week, the other nights we just grab a burger or whatever’s not too expensive.

    6. We actually go for the in-between :) the top is WAY out of our price range, and the bottom we don’t usually enjoy as much. So in-between.

  18. I’m a little concerned now about the size of the beds in the value resorts. We will be staying in a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation when we go. My husband is a big guy at 6’2″. Is he going to be hanging out of the bed?

    1. Yes! If they are the same size bed as the All Stars. I am 5’5″ and felt like the bed was short. I’m betting my 6′ husband would be too tall for it. My friend is 5’7″ and felt like it was very short.

  19. Excellent point on the value hotel VS moderate

    the little secret is that most moderate rooms are the exact same size as the value properties.

  20. My husband and I prefer the moderate resorts and would love to be able to afford the deluxe ones. We are both pooh-sized so double beds in the value would never suit us. Next weekend we are popping over to DTD to do some pin trading and we are just staying at a hotwire resort which is ok. Since it is spring the moderate resorts were too high priced.
    I have never been to the parties. I just haven’t gone to them YET. I do have to say though I went to New Years Eve one year and it was amazing!
    We don’t do dining plans. We buy one sit don meal a day to relax. We have picnic food all the other meals. Saves a bunch and we have more time for the parks rather than stand in lines for food.

  21. Wow. I am hitting 5 of the 6 on this list.

    I have been to the parks both with and without a park hopper, and I found it to be a huge inconvenience to be tied to a single park. Because we knew we couldn’t come back, it felt like we had to GOGOGOGOGO all day to make sure we saw everything, and did everything we wanted, without a break. It was insane.

    My family is going for the first time this fall. I have a park hopper- we will take it slower, take breaks, and swap parks. My goal is one park in the morning, break in the aft on, different park in the evening, and possibly a third park at night, if the 2nd park closes early.

    We have 3 character meals planned because they are unique character at two of them, and the third is just a must do on our list. Though, I will say that if we need to scale back our meal plan, two of the character meals a re the first to go.

    We are staying at POR. The values are great- but the rooms are smaller, the beds are smaller, and they are so much more crowded. I am not paying much more at all to have a larger room and larger bed. I certainly can’t afford a deluxe, or I would. I have priced them all- AKL is the only one that is close to being affordable, and it would still require that we cut our trip by a day.

    We are going at Halloween. The main goal is MNSSHP. We already have costumes planned. We have it set so that we spend the day at the pool, or DTD, so no regular park ticket for the day. Then, we hit MK right at 4, and enjoy the day, along with dinner in the park at Liberty Tavern before the official start of the party.

    Lastly, we have the regular dining plan right now. But, if we are able to snag free dining at all (QS or RDP), we are going to upgrade. I don’t plan to do a ton of sit down meals, but I like the idea of having ALL of my meals covered. If we pull free QS dining, it will cost me $120 more than I am paying for regular dining currently, to upgrade to deluxe. Not having to worry about any food costs is totally worth it to me.

    If I were paying out of pocket for the deluxe meal plan? Not a chance. It’s too pricy.

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